Monday, March 20, 2006

A Modest Proposal

For preventing the children of poor people of the world from being a burden to their parents or country, and for making them useful to society.

It is impossible not to be affected by the tragedy of poverty that destroys whole families and hinders the growth of societies around the Earth. Technology has allowed their pitiful stories to be played out in the comfort of our own living rooms, pricking our collective social conscience. Pictures of mothers, desperately begging for food followed by three, four, or six children, all of them dressed in rags at the mercy of the elements. These mothers, instead of being able to work for a living, are forced to spend all their time begging for food for their infants: who when they do grow up are doomed by unemployment to become thieves, or turn to violence to extort a living from those weaker than themselves, or to emigrate to the developed world in search of a better life, or indeed to lash out violently at societies that strike them as decadent.

I think everyone agrees that the sheer number of those living in poverty is unacceptable, so much so that a movement like Make Poverty History has mobilised large sections of our seemingly apathetic society, but we can all recognise that this continued state of affairs is in none of our interests. If someone could come up with a fair, cost-effective and simple method of making these children good, valuable members of their societies, contributing to enrichment of all, they would deserve international fame and respect.

However, my objective is not simply confined to providing only for the children of beggars. It is far more wide-ranging, encompassing all infants of a certain age whose parents are unable to support them.

Other experts have approached this problem from the wrong angle, and so as a consequence have come to the wrong conclusions with predictable results. By the provision of aid to these beleaguered communities they entrench the problem. We need to empower these people, to help them to help themselves. Our critical window of opportunity is presented to us when the child puts the least strain on resources. This is when the mother is breast-feeding the child, which she can continue to do for a year while subsisting on whatever meagre resources are available to her without any additional expense. It is at exactly at one year old that I propose to provide for them in a way that instead of being a burden on their parents or community, needing food, clothing or shelter for the rest of their lives, they will actually contribute to the feeding, and even partly to the clothing of tens of thousands.

Another great advantage of my scheme is that it will prevent the abortions that happen on a massive scale in developing countries, sparing thousands of baby girls whose families would sacrifice them on account of their gender. This is a brutal practice made acceptable by the barbarous values of their traditional societies and aided and abetted by modern science such as the use of ultrasound. Bringing this to a halt could only be seen as a triumph for Humanity!

It is calculated that 800 million people around the world do not have enough food to fulfil their daily energy needs. Of these 800 million people, the birth rate is about 24 per 1000 people. By my calculations, 19,200,000 children around the world are born into extreme poverty and hunger every year. Infant mortality is around 59.2 per 1000, resulting in the deaths of 1,136,640 of these children. Therefore, we are left with 18,063,360 surviving infants born every year whose parents are unable to support them. The question before us is how this number can be raised and provided for, a situation which, as made abundantly clear earlier, is currently impossible if any of the other existing methods proposed are followed. When they grow up the economies of the developing world are incapable of providing employment for them all, either through agriculture or industry. Nor is there enough development to employ them in construction. These children can’t even survive by stealing until they are at least 6 years old, although it has to be admitted that some show great promise from an early age. Our creaking welfare states in the West certainly cannot take much further strain, so even if unfettered access to the greater resources of the developed world through unlimited immigration was a possibility, it would be simply unfeasible.

Given the apparent hopelessness of this situation, let me now propose my solution, which I hope will not be objected to by any right-thinking and caring person.

I have been assured by a Chinese friend of mine that a young, healthy child well nursed is at a year old a delicious, nutritious and filling food, capable of being cooked in a variety of ways - stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I have no doubt that it would go equally well in a fricassee, ragout, or even a soup.

Therefore, I propose that of the 18,036,360 children already computed, 3,006,060 should be reserved for breeding, of which part only a quarter should be males. This is more than is allowed in herds of cattle, sheep, or pigs. The reason for this is that these children are rarely legitimate, as marriage is not always the norm in these developing societies and so one male will serve four females. The remaining 15,030,300 can, at a year old, be sold on a world market to satisfy the tastes and appetites of the developed world; always making sure that the mother lets them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump and fat for serving. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and if seasoned with a little salt or pepper, perhaps accompanied with a few sprigs of rosemary, it will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.

I have worked this out according to an average where a new-born will weigh 4 kilos, at a year old, if well fed, will weigh about 8 kilos.

I realise that this food will be quite dear, but conspicuous consumption being what it is, that makes it all the more appropriate for Western elites, given that we live in comfort at the expense of the rest of the world, we may as well feast upon their children.

We need to make sure that we account for market influences in this proposal. As children are mainly born in the winter and early spring to avoid losing valuable help during harvest, we could experience a glut in the market, depressing prices. However, as the children will come from populations prone to attempting to emigrate, the scheme will have the added benefit of reducing the numbers of potential illegal immigrants.

I have already calculated the expense of raising a child. If the average daily income is £0.47 per day, then the cost of providing for the nursing mother should be £171.55 per year. Mothers in sub-Saharan Africa, however, would have a competitive advantage as it would only cost them £124.43 to raise their children due to a lower average daily income. As a good, fat child will provide an average of four dishes, those with refined tastes could no doubt be persuaded to part with £210 per infant. The elites of the developed world would learn to look after the developing world, increasing their popularity among the poor, while the mother will have an average £40 net profit, and will be available to work until she has her next child.

It is also possible that a budding entrepreneur may discover a niche market for the flayed skin of the carcass. The resulting high-class leather would without a doubt make ideal material for the next fashion must-haves, whether they are boots, bags or gloves.

There is also a great interest in having the freshest food available. Supermarkets are very keen to meet the demands of their customers. The opportunity exists for a market leader like Tesco to marry convenience with freshness and provide a live market to its customers with specially trained butchers on-hand to ensure that the child is prepared for the table in the best possible way.

Another good friend of mine has suggested that the market could be expanded to include 12-14 year olds. Unfortunately I think that this is not a flyer, given that the meat is too tough and stringy, while the girls are a valuable resource as they provide an important pool of breeders. At this point, I imagine that some sensitive readers might venture that this proposal borders on cruelty. Despite my good intentions, I have to admit I have sympathy with their fears, but I hope that I will be heard out.

To be fair to my friend though, his idea did come to him after hearing of the fate that awaits the opponents of President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea who apparently has a taste for testicles. He had heard that whenever any young person was put to death, the executioner sold the carcass to the ruling elite as a delicacy. In one case there was a body of a plump girl of fifteen, who was crucified for attempting to poison the President, which was said to have been sold to the Prime Minister and other members of the Government in joints from the gibbet for an astronomical price. I have to admit that if the same use was made of some of the obese teenage girls who do nothing but hang about bus shelters and park benches accumulating ASBO’s then this country would hardly be the worse for wear.

Some pessimists point to the vast numbers of poor people who are old, diseased, or crippled, and I have felt it necessary to devote some time to considering how to ease the burden they place on the developing countries of the world. But after due consideration, I have to admit I’m not worried by this apparent problem at all because it is perfectly clear that everyday they are dying and rotting by cold and famine, and filth and vermin, as fast as can be reasonably expected. As for the young labourers, they are now in as hopeful a condition; they cannot get work, and starve, unable to afford food to the point where, if at any time they do get work, they do not have the strength to perform it, thus opening more opportunities in the labour market and delivering themselves and the state from the evils to come.

But I’ve gone off on a tangent for too long, and so to return to my point. The advantages of my proposal should now be obvious to all. Firstly, as I have already noted, it will greatly reduce the number of potential illegal immigrants, with whom we are overrun every year, providing a real danger of out breeding us, breaking the welfare state with their demands, and providing a pool of disaffected individuals liable to engage in terrorist activities.

Secondly, the poor will be able to make a profit from their enterprise, giving them the real opportunity to drag themselves up by their bootstraps.

Thirdly, instead of the maintenance of 15,030,300 children from two years and upward at an additional £171.55 each per year, the developing countries’ budgets will be increased by £2,578,447,965 per year. This is on top of the profit of introducing a new marketable item that will be desired by those of taste and refinement. The profit from the sale of the goods will be entirely of their own growth and manufacture, increasing the amount of capital available in these societies, boosting the economy, with the effect that “a rising tide will lift all boats.”

Fourthly, the more promiscuous will not only profit by an average of £40 per year from the sale of their children, but will also be freed of the burden of trying to support them and will also be made available for employment in the labour market.

Fifthly, this new food would bring increased income to high-class restaurants where the best chefs would be sure to discover the best recipes for serving it to perfection, and consequently attract the highest class of clientele who know good food and are prepared to pay for it.

Sixthly, this would be a great inducement to marriage. It would increase the care and tenderness of mothers toward their children, when they are sure of a settlement for life to the poor babies, provided in some sort by the market, to their annual profit instead of expense. We could also expect to see some healthy competition between the married women to see who could bring the fattest child to market. Men would grow fond of their wives during their pregnancy and it should serve as a disincentive to beat or kick them (which is far too prevalent) for fear of a miscarriage. Many other potential advantages might arise. For example, if bird flu was to seriously deplete our stock of chicken, children could possibly fill the niche, although supply would have to be upped to deflate the price and make it more accessible to the general population. But I’ll not go further into this idea at this stage for the sake of brevity.

I want to make clear that I am not as narrow-minded and blinkered as to reject any reasonable suggestions any of my readers may wish to propose if they prove them to be equally innocent, cheap, simple and effective. But before you rush to offer your proposals or amendments I would appreciate it if you could consider two points. First, with the current situation, how do you propose to find food, clothing and shelter for millions of useless mouths and bodies? And secondly, given that there are so many people in poverty that to lift them out of it would require us all to constrain our lifestyles; I desire those politicians, rock stars, and cynics who criticise my proposal, and may actually dare to provide an answer, that they will first ask the parents of these children, whether or not they wish that they themselves had been sold for food, at a year old in the manner I propose, and thus would have avoided the suffering and hardships they have had to go through whether it be through state or militia oppression, the impossibility of paying rent without income or employment, the need for food, with no house or proper clothes to protect them from the weather, and the inevitability of condemning their children and their children’s children to this fate forever.

I declare that I make this modest proposal without any personal interest or motive, other than the public good of my country, the advancement of the economy, providing for the infants, relieving the poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich. I have no children from which I can make a profit, my youngest being nine years old, and my wife is past child-bearing.

With Apologies to the Dean


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